Maimonides expressed it best when he said “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Thank you Murray Guttman, on behalf of your entire immediate and extended family, your Jewish community and your greater Cincinnati community for sustaining and teaching us the values that will help us grow and build a more justified, beautiful and harmonious world. We will forever be grateful for the many lessons you have provided over your 90 years of being on this earth. B’shalom.
Murray Guttman was born in February 2, 1930 in McKeesport Rocks, Pennsylvania to Mayme and Louis Guttman. Murray was the middle child and adored his sisters Elayne and Faye. As a young family during the Depression, they moved around a lot and in 1937, arrived in Cincinnati. Lou and his brother, Joe, created Lifeguard Industries, a siding business.
From Lou, Murray learned to take care of others. This apple didn’t fall far from the tree; Lou was part of the Huchum Club, a generous poker game that quietly gave proceeds to community members in need and local Jewish charities alike. While much of Murray’s philanthropy was well known, he also gave on a personal level to those he cared for. Many remember Murray as a kind and generous listener – never rushing or offering a quick fix, but being present with those he cared for in a moment of need.
From a young age Murray understood that hard work led to pocket change. In high school he pumped gas and sold Fuller brushes door to door, learning early on how to make a sale and how to make customers happy. At Hughes High School, Murray played football, swam and was an all-around great guy.
When he set his sight on young Florence Hiudt, Murray didn’t know he’d get the entire Hiudt mispocha as well. Florence sealed the deal by making Murray an apple pie on their first date. They were married August 26, 1951.
The newlyweds settled into their apartment on Dana Avenue and it wasn’t long before Steve and then Laurie were born. When Mayme told Murray that Florence needed more help, Murray responded to his mother “I only make seventy-five dollars a week!”. Mayme replied, “Well, I guess you’ll have to work a little harder”. Hard work and big ideas came easily to Murray.
In 1955, the young Guttman family moved to their first home on Meadowridge Lane where Harold and Louis were born and then, in 1962, into their home on Laurel Oak that so many remember fondly. Florence wanted a true California-style contemporary ranch but they didn’t have money for a marble floor so to make Florence happy, Murray worked with their dear friend Rubin Slovin to claim the remains of a US Post Office demolition to complete Florence’s marble floor. As the family grew roots on Laurel Oak, Ian completed the close knit family. Regardless of what time Murray came home from work, the family gathered around the dinner table together.
As a budding entrepreneur, Murray started to build his business legacy. During the early years of Murray’s career, he created Triangle Distribution and Supply Company, Prime Window Manufacturing, Prime Construction Company, Squire Jack’s Fish & Chips and Casey’s Hamburgers. When Murray saw what consumers might want, he saw opportunities: opening a health club, a car wash and a sporting goods store.
In the early 1970’s Murray was one of the first to build new condominiums in Cincinnati, when he founded Hills Developers. He named his business for his children: Harold, Ian, Laurie, Louis & Steve (HILLS). Throughout the years, he modeled hard work, honesty and integrity for his family. Murray’s handshake was his word and he understood his reputation of being a tough but fair negotiator, with suppliers and customers alike, was what mattered. He was not afraid to dream big. Working with his sons and son-in-law, John, was his greatest pleasure. The guys went to lunch almost every day. Whether it was Skyline, Frisch’s or Trio, Dad always treated.
Over the years, their house became “home” for many friends, community members and extended family. Murray and Florence were always willing to provide basic needs and emotional support to the people who took shelter and lived in the safety of the home Murray and Florence created.
Monday through Fridays were for hard work but the weekends were for fun. Murray and Florence had lifelong friends – there were golf games, dinner parties and card games. On many Sundays, the entire Guttman/Hiudt crew would gather for some healthy baseball or football competition in the backyard finished off with a picnic and Meemaw’s famous assorted cookies and cakes.
Florence and Murray loved to travel. Whether it was a weekend in Bermuda or an epic tour of Asia, Florence, along with Dollie and Bert Levine, schlepped Murray on many trips that he loved. As the family grew, their travel agenda included big family trips to Hilton Head with all of the children and grandchildren that created many years of amazing memories and joy.
Commitment to the Jewish community was so important to Murray. When he and Dick Shenk, of blessed memory, co-chaired both the Federation annual campaign and the special campaign for Operation Exodus to bring Jews out of the Soviet Union, record amounts were raised. The slogan that year “We Stand Together So No Jew Stands Alone” was personal for Murray. In 1970, he and Florence, along with a local group, traveled to Russia with Rolly Schwartz and the US Boxing Team, where they met Florence’s cousins, Paula and Edward Kuchmar. They worked with the US government for several years and in 1975, the Kuchmars arrived in Cincinnati from the former Soviet Union.
Shep Englander, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati said “Murray Guttman led when asked. He did serve as the Federation's Annual Campaign Chairman and he was proud of that. But he did not seek to be in the spotlight. But he had an enormous influence on those around him. His influence was driven by his values. They were relatively simple. He put his family and his Jewish community before everything else. He led by example. He just did what he thought was right. Every day. He inspired his family to be deeply devoted to each other and to their Jewish community. And the Jewish community has been deeply affected by the family he built. It's hard to imagine our Jewish community without him.”
Murray’s dedication to the Jewish community radiated in many ways and he was not afraid to lead. Murray and a group of others worked to merge the Glen Manor Nursing Home and the Orthodox Jewish Home. With others, he helped raise the dollars needed for Cedar Village, a modern model of care for Jewish seniors that opened in 1997. In an effort to make the most of the money raised, Murray personally led the entire building process. He remains an Emeritus member of the board to this day.
Sustaining Jewish life was always important to Murray and Florence. Their passion for the work of Chabad of Southern Ohio dates back to the 1970’s. Rabbi Shalom Kalmanson and Shterna of blessed memory, along with their nine children shared many years of growth and friendship together. Murray was also passionate about taking care of the Jews who immigrated from the FSU and was instrumental in helping them get integrated into the Jewish community through his staunch support for Chabad's FREE Russian Center. Later, Murray was an avid supporter of Chabad on the University of Cincinnati campus. He worked tirelessly to build support for this important organization.
“Murray, along with his beloved late wife Florence, has been an integral part of building a strong infrastructure for the Jewish community in Cincinnati and beyond,” said Rabbi Sholom B Kalmanson, Executive Vice President, Chabad of Southern Ohio. “I am humbled to have worked so closely with this true Mentch. We were like Mishpocha (ed: family). His great foresight and his passion for Jewish continuity, coupled with his talents as a leader, earned him the respect of so many. Serving as a board member in leadership positions throughout Chabad’s extensive development in the region for over 40 years, he envisioned and championed an expansive array of programming to ensure that every Jewish individual in the region would know that they were loved and cared for, wherever they may find themself.”
His son, Rabbi Yosef Kalmanson, added: “As a visionary ahead of his time, Murray was especially passionate for the younger generation and for college students due to his deep conviction that the next generation must be exposed to the beauty, joy, and warmth that Yiddishkeit has to offer. He felt, and instilled the same conviction in his beautiful family, that this was the key to Jewish continuity and it motivated him and the whole family to be so supportive of Chabad’s work for all these years. I am proud to call him a mentor and gentle father figure.”
Jewish life in Florence and Murray’s home was marked by large weekly Shabbat dinners and mega Yontiff (holiday) meals. There was always a seat at the table for anyone who needed a holiday meal. Murray took such pride in those gatherings and Florence’s Rosh Hashanah lunches were legendary. In a showing of true partnership in building a Jewish home, Florence worked for weeks to prepare enormous family seders and Murray diligently led the seder, as indicated by very strict written instructions from Florence in his Hagadah.
As Murray and Florence’s family grew to include son-in-law, John, and daughter-in-laws, Joan, Cindy, Beth and Aimee – Murray reveled in his growing family. Grandchildren, eventually numbering twenty-two in total, each resembling a letter in the Hebrew alphabet, were the light of his eyes over the years. Murray, or Papa as he is known, rarely missed a sports game, a dance recital, or a Yom Ha’siddur at Rockwern Academy. Just last summer, the family gathered in celebration at the re-dedication of the Rockwern playground, which is named for Murray Guttman.
It was the special quality time with Meemaw and Papa that has had such a lasting effect on their twenty-two grandchildren. Many of the grandchildren would sleep over after Shabbat dinner and stay for days. In 1987, when they moved onto Burning Tree Lane, some of the grandchildren lived up the street and they were always welcome to make cookies with Meemaw or hang with Papa. Each of his twenty-two grandchildren can tell you stories of sleepovers, breakfasts at Perkins and late night UDF runs. Each grandchild carries countless memories - from special Bar and Bat Mitzvah trips, to nights at the theater, to just eating Cherrios and bananas with Papa. This generation of grandchildren is honored to pass along stories to Papa and Meemaw’s twenty-two great-grandchildren and counting G-d willing! The values that Papa lived day in and day out, will be carried forward for generations to come.
Rabbi Irvin Wise, Rabbi Emeritus at Adath Israel Congregation said that Murray was a loving and giving individual who was extraordinarily generous to Adath Israel, to the Jewish community and to anyone in need. He raised his children to be involved in the community and this ethos has extended to his grandchildren as well. Murray’s well know work ethic was not just about hard work. It was about treating his employees with respect and concern; it was about treating his customers with respect and building a relationship that extended beyond a sale. Rabbi Wise concluded his eulogy by saying that Murray had twenty-two grandchildren, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, but that Murray was the “aleph and the taf and everything in between.”
Murray was preceded in death by his sisters, Faye Sachs and Elayne Levine and his beloved wife, Florence Hiudt Guttman. He is survived by their five children and spouses, Steve and Joan Guttman, Laurie and John Acklen, Harold and Cynthia Guttman, Louis and Beth Guttman, and Ian and Aimee Guttman, along with twenty-two grandchildren, Brandon (MJ) Guttman, Nicole (Kai) Schneider, Jordan (Dallas) Guttman, Tobi (Adam Isbister) Acklen, John Jr. (Melissa) Acklen, Aimee Acklen, Robbie Acklen, Joey Acklen, Mayme Acklen, Seth (Lauren) Guttman, Ariella (Andy) Cohen, Jeremy (Aaron Breslow) Guttman, Sadie (Josh) Gelb, Hershel Guttman, Jonah (Ariel) Guttman, Julien (Adam Teitelbaum) Guttman, Aaron Guttman, Ellyn Guttman, Isaac Guttman, Isabella Guttman, Maxwell Guttman and Hannah Guttman, and twenty-two great-grandchildren who celebrate his life and his legacy. The most recent was born August 10th and will be given a Hebrew name in his memory.
He is also survived by many nieces and nephews, friends and former wife Elaine Skurow Guttman, with whom he found comfort and company after Florence passed away in 2002.
The family is grateful to Meaghan, John, MarKayla and Brittani for the loving care they provided Dad every day.
Murray was laid to rest on Friday, August 7th at a graveside service led by Rabbi Moishe Smolkin and Rabbi Irvin Wise. Several grandchildren shared stories of their Papa.
Covid-19 has made shivah a little difficult, but Zoom minyans and enormous online shivah visits (thanks Rabbi Shmolkin) have made it a little easier.
Many will recall Murray as the handsome white haired man with his big kind smile, willing ear and firm handshake, but his family will remember their Papa.
To honor Murray’s memory, please consider making a donation to:
The Murray Guttman Building Fund at Chabad Center of University of Cincinnati
℅ Chabad of Southern Ohio
10816 Kenwood Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45242
Or the charity of your choice.